Britain has a housing crisis of epic proportions – there are not enough affordable houses to rent or buy.
Having a secure home is at the heart of all of our lives and is the foundation on which we raise our families. A decent home is a right for everyone, whatever their income or background. Yet for too many people finding an affordable home is increasingly difficult, or impossible.
Many renters face being uprooted from their community, schools and GP at the whim of a landlord.
Since 2010 housebuilding has fallen to its lowest level since the 1920s. Rents have risen faster than incomes, there are almost 200,000 fewer home-owners, and new affordable house building is at a 24 year low. 120,000 children don’t have a home to call their own, and rough sleeping has risen every year.
Locally, the recently published West Kent Homelessness and Housing Strategy shows how the housing crisis affects people living in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Malling and Sevenoaks. It is a stark catalogue of the failure of national and local government to tackle the housing problem.
Across West Kent Conservative run local authorities are failing to meet their affordable housing targets, young people are finding it almost impossible to buy houses in their price range, and rents are increasing faster than wages.
There is not enough specialist accommodation for older people, there is more homelessness and the number of rough sleepers has doubled over 5 years.
Government has largely been the cause of these problems and this government doesn’t have any solutions to fix them. Only a change in government and the stance of our locally elected councils can give hope to the thousands of people who simply want a secure, affordable home to live in.
More council houses have been sold under the Conservatives and only one in five has been replaced, despite long housing waiting lists. Labour opposes the right-to-buy unless councils can prove that they have a plan to replace homes sold like-for-like.
Labour would commit to a massive investment in house building including the biggest council building programme for at least 30 years.
We need to build thousands more low-cost homes reserved for first-time buyers and believe that local people buying their first home should be given priority on buying new homes in their area – often where they grew up and have friends and family.
With the housing costs of young adults three times more than their grandparents, now is the time to control rents. Labour would improve the standard of rented accommodation, make three-year-tenancies the norm and put an inflation cap on rent rises. UK-wide, Labour would also identify 4,000 additional homes reserved for people with a history of rough sleeping.
Local councils have a major contribution to improving housing. Many Labour councils are offering real leadership, taking on government, and dealing with this vital issue head on.
Our own Tunbridge Wells Borough Council should show its determination to put the needs of its residents first by making housing, rather than building a new multi-million-pound civic complex, its number one priority.